‘Shepolopolo’ jet in for Starlets’ Olympic tie
National women football Harambee Starlets have a mountain to climb after settling for uninspiring 2-2 draw with Zambia’s She-Polopolo in the first leg of the 2022 Olympics qualifier at Moi International Sports Centre (MISC) Kasarani on Friday.
Starlets should count themselves lucky for sharing the spoils as their first goal was was courtesy of a howler by the visitors goalkeeper Natasha Banda who directed the ball in his own net in a bid to clear a Mwanahalima Adam attack.
A technically superior She-Polopolo, who need a goalless draw in the return match in Lusaka on Tuesday to advance on the away goal rule, deserved a better result as they controlled the proceedings but came short of punishing the myriad of errors by Kenya’s backline.
Zambia’s dominance told as they race to a 12th minute lead, the dangerous Barbara Tembo making a dizzying run in Kenya’s territory from the right wing to put through Grace Chanda who beat goalkeeper Anedi Kundu with a simple tap in.
Despite a slow start, Kenya managed a counter attack which yielded the opener almost out of nothing, Mwanahalima finding space to force Banda into an error as both teams went to the breather tied one-all.
On resumption, Corazone Aquino and Mwanahlima found Anita Mulenga in Zambia defence quite a handful to beat as they desperately searched for goals.
In the 38th minute, came close with a half volley that was cleared off the lines.
Starlets then punished She-Polopolo in the 70th minute when Banda spilled a harmless looking shot by Cynthia Musungu and Aquino who was lurking in the “D” area dutifully pounced on the rebound to slam the ball in the net.
Then even before Kenyan fans in the stands had finished celebrating, Rachael Kwandananji equalized for the visitors in an almost similar fashion when Kundu lost grip of the ball for the former to pick his spot in the 16-yard box to shake the net.
Two minutes later, Barbara almost made it three goals for She-Polopolo but was seconds late to pull the trigger as Kenyan defenders regrouped to thwart the offensive.
It was still Zambia who showed hunger for more goals, Chanda threatening from the wing in the 77th minute only to be denied by astute defending by Starlets’ Ruth Ingosi.
Zambia then had a scare in the 80th minute when the marauding Cynthia Musungu hit the upright after stealing on the blind side of their defence.
Barbara had a realistic chance of drilling inn goal number for Zambia in the dying minute but was dispossessed Topista Situma.
Starlets are scheduled to fly out to for Zambia tonight for the return leg with the winner on aggregate facing either Ivory Coast or Cameroon in the next round.
“Zambia’s team is one of the best with very athletic players. Playing at home, I think they will be very cautious not to make mistakes, but we have to plot a way to breaching them for goals,” said Ouma.
She-Polopolo coach Bruce Mwape was happy with the match result, he, however, warned his side not to celebrate yet.
“I have no doubt we will finish the job at home. The girls played well and took the game to the home team. If we play with the same vigour, we are almost certain of progressing to the next round,” he said.